It’s been exactly three months since I kissed my grandmother goodbye for the last time. I still feel the loss of her every day.
Last week Skye and I took a trip to Lewistown, the first since my grandma’s passing. I spent the entire four-hour drive home wondering if Skye would ask where her Nana was, and trying to figure out what the hell I would tell her if she did.
How was I supposed to explain death to a four-year-old, especially when the pain of that death is still so fresh in my own heart?
It was one of the many times I’ve felt vastly unqualified to be a parent, worrying that what I said could possibly cause irreparable psychological damage. Would I even be able to form an explanation without breaking down into tears myself?
It turns out I needn’t have worried.
She didn’t ask where her Nana was once during the three-day visit. I was relieved at not being forced to have that particular difficult discussion, but also filled with an incredible sadness.
Skye is beyond lucky in the three sets of amazing grandparents she still has, who adore her and spoil her to no end. But the chance of her remembering that for the first four years of her life she also had the world’s greatest great-grandmother as well is slim.
A woman whose greatest joy in the last few years of her life was watching her great-granddaughter’s playful antics, who would have done anything in the world for her grandkids. A woman who was monumental in shaping me into the person I am.
I grew up with my grandma never living more than a few miles away, a couple of years living in the same house. She was always there for all of us, the undisputed head of the family. She taught me through example what strength looked like, and the stubbornness to never give in to doubt. How to slow down and appreciate the millions of beautiful little things surrounding me.
She was everything an amazing grandmother can be, and so much more. But now she’s gone, and it’s begun to hit me that I’m left to pass everything she taught me onto Skye instead.
As for me, I didn’t stop thinking about her from the second I walked into the house – her house – until I was miles away again.
The linen closet in her bathroom still smelled like her; a windbreaker she’d had since my childhood still hung on a hook by the front door. Her ashes watched over us from atop the fireplace; she was everywhere and nowhere all at once. I felt her absence more acutely than I had yet to.
After the second day passed without a mention from Skye of her Nana, I started to worry I was taking the easy way out of what should be a teachable moment. If she was already beginning to forget her great-grandma, I wondered if it was my responsibility to remind her.
I decided to wait until I was in better control of my own emotions before bringing it up, something I hope happens sooner than later. I don’t want Skye’s memories of her Nana to be tainted by my sadness over her loss.
The past couple months I’ve realized more and more how lucky I am that my grandmother was even able to meet her great-granddaughter, let alone have four years to watch her grow. I just wish I could ensure Skye retains some memory of her, without force. I can show her pictures of them together, which we are lucky enough to have plenty of.
When I teach Skye about wildflowers or the words to my favorite old cowboy songs, I’ll tell her about learning the same things from her Nana. When I see the strong will in Skye’s eyes, I’ll know it comes from four generations of stubborn that started with my grandma.
As we were getting ready to leave, I realized it would be the first time I’d ever left Lewistown without kissing my grandma goodbye. The thought almost broke me.
So when I thought I was alone, I kissed my fingers and touched them to her ashes. I jumped when I heard Skye’s voice next to me asking what I was doing. I told her I was just saying goodbye to Nana, before thinking about the Pandora’s box I may have just opened by referring to a box on the stove as a person.
But she didn’t ask a single question. Instead she stepped up to the stove, repeated what I had done and whispered, “Bye Nana, see you soon!” then ran out the door to get in the car.
Just like that I knew I had nothing to worry about. I will never forget my grandma, and I'll make sure that Skye won’t either.